When the American version of Whose Line is it Anyway? was released on DVD I was a very happy camper. I absolutely adore improvisational comedy and in that regard this show was about as hilarious as you could get. With Drew Carey, Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, and Wayne Brady on board you simply couldn't go wrong. But as enjoyable and popular as the US version was though, you can't ignore the original and decidedly better UK edition.
The brainchild of Dan Patterson and Mark Leveson, Whose Line is it Anyway? began humbly on BBC Radio and made its way to the boob tube in 1988. With host Clive Anderson the show presented a simplistic concept with brilliant comedians being the source of material. It's safe to say if you have never seen Whose Line before then you're missing out on one of the most brilliant shows ever.
In many ways Whose Line is a game show though there are no real prizes to be award to contestants or members of the audience. The basic set up of the series sees an introduction by the host (Anderson) who supplies a variety of games for the comedians to take part in. From that point it is entirely up to the participants as far as what happens next. Every episode features unexpected stunts, jokes, and running gags that are made up on the spot. That spontaneity is the source of charm for Whose Line and the UK version had it in spades.
With this DVD release fans can finally get their hands on an uncut version of the first two seasons. It's important to keep in mind that this collection merely features the beginning steps of this great show. Anderson and the contestants try to find their way early on and it wasn't until the latter part of the series that things started to really connect. Still, there are many hilarious, laugh-out-loud moments in this DVD set and no Whose Line fan can truly disregard it.
It sounds silly to say, but if you're coming to the UK version after watching the Drew Carey edition you have to keep in mind that this is British humor. For the laymen viewer most jokes will go right over their head. The first few episodes in season one are the roughest to get through because the show hadn't found its groove. It's funny to see Anderson sitting in the host's chair and looking flustered while the contestants sweat it out on stage. The chemistry between performers didn't really start clicking until later in the series as they began to find their niche.
Contestants such as John Sessions, Josie Lawrence, Stephen Fry, and Tony Slattery helped to carry most games and each brought their own particular charms. Sessions for instance displays his love for literature with some cerebral jokes many in the audience won't get. His hit or miss style is unique to say the least but it helped to define Whose Line in these first two seasons. Slattery was another favorite of mine since his style of comedy was more traditional with what I had come to expect from the show.
One look at the DVD and you may note the recognizable appearances by Greg Proops and Ryan Stiles on the cover. The truth of the matters is that these fan favorites only appear a few times in the second season which again keeps the first season feeling as though it is "finding its way". Don't get me wrong, the original cast was great, it's just that Whose Line evolved over the years and became something greater than these arguably humble beginnings.
This DVD release for the UK edition of Whose Line is it Anyway? is a fan's dream come true. The first and second seasons are only the beginning with this show and it gets infinitely better from here on out. As far as this collection is concerned the first season is the weakest with some forgettable episodes. There were a few brilliant moments in between the lame ones and as the second season rolls around Anderson's crew begins to find their stride. Newcomers expecting an experience similar to that offered by Drew Carey may be disappointed but if you have a passion for British humor you can't go wrong with this collection.
Considering Whose Line is it Anyway? aired on British television in the late 1980's you have to expect certain things when you look at the quality of this DVD set. First of all the picture is very soft and blurry in most scenes and the colors are somewhat subdued, lacking the vibrancy the recent American version presented. Film grain is kept minimal and compression isn't a problem at all which is nice considering the amount of episodes on each of the four discs.
The audio quality in this collection is on par with what you'd find while grading the image. The 2.0 English stereo offering presents Whose Line is it Anyway? in a functional yet rather simplistic manner. The range in audio is lacking and there is no diversity on the soundstage. Still, the sound is clear with no noticeable defects. It just hasn't been improved beyond its original recording.
The second disc in this collection is where you'll find the only bonus feature which is an interview with Dan Patterson and Mark Leveson. The interview is broken up into two segments for a total run time of just over 39 minutes. Their commentary regarding the creation of the show and the experience of working on it is deeply personal and informative. It was certainly interesting to hear about the train of thought that went behind things even if they were as simple as the arrangement of singers in the "Hoedown" skit. They go on to discuss how certain performers were brought onto the show and how things evolved over the years.
If you're looking for a laugh and you're a fan of British comedy it just doesn't get any better than the original Whose Line is it Anyway?. This show is legendary when it comes to British television and it's hard not to love it. Even with almost twenty years under its belt, the concept is fresh, surprising, and inspirational. There may be a few rough spots in these first two seasons but overall each episode offers one laugh after another. Despite its shortcomings this is a set that fans simply can't ignore.
Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!